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10. The Tripod and Its Usage 

A tripod is one of the most essential accessories in photography. As you’ll learn now as well as in the later parts of this book, some of the best looking and most artistic of shots cannot be taken without the usage of a tripod.

A tripod is a three legged device that allows the camera to be fixed at the top on its head, like in the image below:

Because the camera is fixed, it allows the photographer to use as slow a shutter speed as possible provided nothing is moving in the scene.

This is because since the camera is fixed firmly, there is no camera shake.

And this is extremely important because it allows us to save light in low-light situations entirely by reducing the shutter speed and not resorting to increasing the ISO.

To understand this point and show the importance of a tripod let’s do an exercise.

For this exercise, I’m assuming that you don’t have your tripod. So you can just use a plain surface like a table for now.

We are going to take two shots, one handheld and one with the tripod.

Let’s get started with the first shot:

Handheld Shot

For the first shot, I want you take a shot of your room.

  1. I want you to switch off the lights in your room so it it’s very dimly lit (not very dark though because you still need to be able to lock focus).
  2. Since you are capturing the entire room, let’s use a moderate aperture, like f11.
  3. Next, can you guess what shutter speed you’ll be using? Since nothing is moving in your room, you can afford to reduce the shutter speed but only up till 1/40, as you are shooting handheld.
  4. Now is the time to notice the meter. Provided the room was really dimly lit, you’ll notice that the meter is pointing slightly towards the negative side, like shown in the image below:
  5. So you increase the ISO till the meter comes in the centre. In this case, I increased the ISO to 10000 (some older cameras do not even go to that high an ISO). and then the meter came in the centre, like shown in the image below:
  6. Then take the shot.
  7. You’ll get a decent looking shot, like the one below:

Now it’s time to take the shot with a tripod and see the difference.

Tripod Shot

The first step is to of course mount the camera on the tripod.

Different tripods can have different ways to attach the camera, but it’s fairly easy to understand, so I’ll leave it up to you.

Even if you don’t have a tripod, you can still follow the steps below. In Step 10, it will be explained how you can manage without a tripod:

 

  1. Continue shooting in the same conditions as before with the room dimly lit.
  2. We want to take the same shot as before so point your camera to where you took your first shot.
  3. Set your aperture again to f11 like in the shot before.
  4. But this time, the first thing you should be doing is to set your ISO back to 100, like shown in the image below:
  5. Again, you’ll notice that the meter is pointing to the negative side.
  6. But this time we won’t increase the ISO to get the light in. This time all we have to do is to keep reducing your shutter speed till the meter comes in the centre.
  7. It doesn’t matter how slow your shutter speed is because since the camera is on a tripod, there is no risk of a camera shake.
  8. So in this case I started reducing the shutter speed till the meter came in the centre. This happened at a shutter speed of 2.5 seconds as shown below:
  9. If you have a tripod, then go ahead and lock focus and take the shot. While it’s ok to take a shot by pressing the shutter button, you can also use a remote to press the shutter button so you don’t have to touch the camera at all and minimalize any little chances of a shake also. Usually in shots that require usage of very slow shutter speed, it’s a good idea to not touch the camera at all and use a remote. Here’s how a remote looks like:

     

    Check out the recommended equipments and accessories section at the end to know which remote to buy.

     


    10. In case you don’t have a tripod, just place the camera on some plain surface like a table and then use a self-timer. Using a self-timer is important in case you don’t have a tripod because without a tripod, your camera is not locked onto anything so it will shake when you press the shutter button. In order to activate the self-timer, use the same button that you used to activate the burst mode when we were learning about shutter speed. From there select the 10 second self-timer. This will ensure that the actually shot is taken after 10 seconds of pressing the shutter button, thereby resulting in a shake-free shot. In most cameras, you can activate the self-timer from the same place where you activated the burst mode earlier on.

    11.Once you take this shot, it will look something like this:

On the face of it, both the shots look similar.

But here’s what I want you to do.

I want you to put both your shots on your computer so that you can see them full size.

You’ll notice that the second shot looks much better than the first one.

This is because it has been shot at ISO 100 and hence is much cleaner and looks a lot sharper than the first one.

To illustrate this, see the two images below. Both are zoomed in parts of from the first and the second shots respectively.

You can see how much clear is the second image.

That is the advantage of using a tripod. It helps us to use very slow shutter speeds, which in turn enable us to shoot at ISO 100.

It’s always recommended that you buy a very good tripod. Don’t buy very cheap tripods just to save money. As you’ll learn later on in the landscape and long exposure photography sections, having a good and sturdy tripod with some enhanced features is extremely essential for getting quality shots.

See the recommended equipments and accessories section to see which tripod to buy.

Next chapter: Soft Image Problems